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There was a time when the words "vegetarian" and "burger" were not synonymous.
Times are changing in Salt Lake. Gone are the sawdust-flavored, cardboard-textured rounds that substituted for ground-meat patties. In their place are more flavorful vegetable-loaded options sure to make mouths water whether you eschew beef every day or just occasionally.
Here are five options that shouldn't be missed.
House Veggie Burger at Avenues Proper
$14 • On the menu since opening nearly four years ago, the house veggie burger has received as much attention as other more carnivorous menu items. Co-owner Liam Connelly, who was executive chef at the time, wanted to offer a vegetarian burger that had Southwestern flavors. The handmade patties are filled with sweet potatoes, black beans, spices and egg and then deep-fried for a crispy brown exterior and tender interior. Ghost pepper cheese, pickled red onion and poblano crema complete the offering. Omnivores often add candied bacon to the veggie burger which is called "the hypocrite."
Kein Fleisch Burger at Ice Haüs
$10 • For the dive-bar burger lover, Ice Haüs serves the Kein Fleisch German for "no meat." "This is the most bad-ass vegan burger you can imagine," explains owner Dave Morris, who went vegan six years ago and has a cultlike following of vegan diners at Ice Haüs and Piper Down, his other bar. "We stack it high and ridiculous. It's for the carnivorous vegan." The creation is topped with a sliced vegan brat, loaded with caramelized beer onions, sautéed mushrooms, sauerkraut, melted Chao cheese and German mustard. Regular, garlic or Cajun fries are included and Morris likes to pair with Bohemian Brewery's Munich Dark Lager.
The Emerald Burger at Piper Down
$8 • And speaking of Morris' other establishment, Piper Down has long been known for its better-than-bar-food menu, and The Emerald Burger is no exception. Available with an organic black-bean patty or a vegan-friendly portobello mushroom base, the burger is grilled and topped with melted Chao coconut cheese, fresh avocado and Vegenaise and served on a toasted potato roll.
Vegetable Grain Burger at Oasis Café
$10 • As one of Salt Lake's original vegetarian restaurants, Oasis Café and its vegetable grain burger has changed through the years. General manager Will Keesen said the burger was one of the original menu items from 1997. Fast-forward to 2012 when then-chef Billy Sotelo changed the recipe to its current iteration, adding bulgur wheat and quinoa in addition to the shredded zucchini, carrots, red onions, white mushrooms, garlic, bread crumbs, garbanzo beans, soy sauce and egg. The burger, available on the lunch and brunch menus, sits on a whole-wheat bun from Stoneground that's generously spread with an addictive basil aioli and topped with sprouts and avocado. Omnivores can add a egg cooked to their liking. It comes with a baby spinach salad with red onion vinaigrette. Enjoy it with the vegetarian bloody Mary.
Chef's Veggie Burger at Squatters
$9.99 • Squatters Chef Vicente Cardenas created the Chef's Veggie Burger 17 years ago at the request of co-founder Peter Cole, who asked that it contain organic quinoa and organic tofu. The chef merged those two ingredients with garbanzo beans, cooked rice, vegetables, organic oats and diced green chiles. The 6-inch patties are shaped using the lid of a 1-gallon peperoncini container. "We improved the recipe in 2010 by roasting all of the vegetables before adding them to the mix," said marketing director Judy Cullen. The change gives it a more "robust vegetable flavor." The burger is topped with fresh avocado and house-made hummus and served on a bun from Stoneground. Brewmaster Jason Stock recommends pairing it with Squatters Chasing Tail.
Where to find veggie burgers
Avenues Proper • 376 8th Ave., Salt Lake City; 385-227-8628
Ice Haüs • 7 E. 4800 South, Murray; 801-266-2127
Oasis Cafe • 151 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City; 801-322-0404
Piper Down • 1492 S. State St., Salt Lake City; 801-468-1492
Squatters Pub Brewery • 147 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City; 801-363-2739